Updates: Continuing Covid-19 pandemic in Washington state (July 13-26)
This post is archived. Read the latest here.
As of Thursday, July 30, the Washington State Department of Health reports:
- 1,564 Covid-19 related deaths; 55,803 confirmed cases (5.7% positive rate among those tested, and 2.8% death rate among positive cases). Note that tests have been limited, so there are likely more unreported cases.
- The most heavily hit Western Washington counties have been King, Snohomish, and Pierce.
- A cluster of Central Washington counties are getting hit particularly hard. Yakima County has a 25% positive rate among those tested (in contrast, King County has a roughly 5% positive rate); Franklin County is 26%; Benton County is 17%; and Grant County is 11%.
- Compared to white people, the rate of Covid cases is three times higher for Black people, five times higher for Latinx people, and six times higher for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.
- While the pandemic initially struck older populations hard, more recent surges in case numbers (June/July) have been driven by younger people -- ages 40 and below.
TUESDAY, JULY 28
Puget Sound counties, municipalities extend work-from-home policies until 2021
10:18 a.m. -- King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties, along with the cities of Seattle, Shoreline, Redmond, Tacoma, Everett, and Kenmore will extend teleworking for eligible employees until 2021. The ports of Seattle and Everett will do the same.
MONDAY, JULY 27
Statewide coronavirus deaths top 1,500 in official count
6:30 a.m. -- Some numbers this morning about the pandemic in Washington state:
--The official count of deaths topped 1,500. The actual number is likely higher, but it will take researchers time to analyze all the data.
--King County has the most cases of the coronavirus, nearly 15,000 as of Sunday's count. But Yakima County, with about a tenth of the population, has nearly 10,000. Other counties with high numbers include larger population centers like Snohomish and Spokane, but also smaller counties like Benton and Franklin.
--King County reports 200 new cases for Thursday, the most since April 1, which is the highest day for new infections (221) since the pandemic began.
--Statewide hospitalizations (people currently in the hospital with confirmed or suspected cases) rose above 400 on Thursday and Friday, according to numbers from the state Department of Health. It's difficult to tell the last time that number topped 400 because of the way the state releases that data.
-- Gil Aegerter
FRIDAY, JULY 24
King County officials ask public to make long-term changes as cases surge
5:05 p.m. -- As King County continues to see a resurgence of Covid-19 cases, public health officials are urging the public to make long-term behavior changes to help decrease transmission.
The average number of reported cases in King County has more than quadrupled since early June, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County. Over the past seven days, King County averaged 171 Covid-19 cases per day.
That’s up from an average of roughly 40 cases per day in early June. Reported cases don’t reflect all cases in the community, that number is likely much higher.
Most new cases are in people aged 20 to 39 years of age, according to Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. However, Duchin said the number of cases in older groups is increasing gradually.
Despite the rising number of cases, Duchin said there are still plenty of hospital beds available in the county. Younger people tend to be less likely to need hospital care. But Duchin said they expect to see cases in the younger population spread to others in the community, including those at higher risk of severe disease, and that could result in more hospitalizations and deaths.
To help reduce the spread of the virus, Duchin is urging people to commit to making long-term changes to the way they function.
“We all need to reboot our attitude about this disease and our resolve to take the necessary steps to live with it safely,” Duchin said during a briefing Friday.
Duchin said Covid-19 is unlikely to go away and, pending wide availability of an effective vaccine, people are going to need to do things like limit contact with people outside their households, avoid large gatherings, and consistently wear a face covering.
“I’m talking about fundamentally rethinking the way we live our daily lives and go about our work and recreation and social activities so that everything we do is done in a way that acknowledges and understands the risk for Covid-19 transmission in every setting and takes steps to decrease that risk in every setting.”
-- Kate Walters
THURSDAY, JULY 23
The pandemic has claimed another small business
4:35 p.m. — The College Inn Pub, a longtime watering hole in Seattle’s University District, announced it’s closing for good.
College Inn Pub is in the basement of the historic College Inn that was built for the Alaska-Yukon Expo and World’s Fair held on the UW campus in 1909. The pub was added much later in the 1970’s when the owners then refinished the basement. It’s become a hangout for students and faculty alike. It reportedly had a resident ghost named Howard. Howard even had a menu special named after him.
The pub’s closure was announced on its Facebook page, saying “without a vibrant University of Washington community in full force on campus, we cannot be a vibrant business.”
—Ruby de Luna
Gov. Inslee tightens business restrictions in Washington's phased reopening, citing rising Covid-19 cases
3:44 p.m. — Gov. Jay Inslee has made various amendments to Washington's four-phase reopening plan, including new restrictions on patronizing restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues, and attending weddings and funerals.
New mandates announced on Thursday include an expansion of the statewide face mask requirement to extend to residential complexes.
"The only effective tool against this pandemic is to change some of our practices, and we need to do that," Inslee said during a press conference on Thursday, adding that the rate of transmission for the coronavirus is up around the state.
As of Wednesday, Washington has seen more than 50,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and is climbing toward 1,500 deaths. Inslee also pointed to complications that have persisted for people even after recovering from the virus.
"They report respiratory and other medical conditions that may be chronic, and certainly have given a long, long challenging tail to people's lives who have been infected," he said.
Inslee went on to announce several rollbacks of loosened social distancing restrictions, iterating that "we knew when we began this reopening process, we would have to accept and make changes as the facts dictated."
Beginning on Thursday, July 30:
- Indoor dining parties are limited to members of the same household. People from separate households may still sit together in outdoor dining spaces.
- Restaurants must also close down gaming areas such as pool tables, video games, and darts until Phase 4.
- Party size will be limited to five and indoor occupancy to 50% in Phase 3.
- Alcohol service must end by 10 p.m. at restaurants.
- Bars, regardless of any food service they provide, must not offer indoor service.
Explosion of Covid-19 cases follows burst of socializing
11:50 a.m. — Snohomish County health officials have traced 82 coronavirus cases in recent weeks to 36 recent social gatherings, with 30 of the gatherings on the Fourth of July.
The holiday parties in the county just north of Seattle hosted as many as 40 people each, with a typical gathering of 13 people leading to five new Covid-19 cases, according to contact tracing studies.
Social gatherings of more than five people are prohibited in Snohomish, King and other “Phase 2” counties.
Health officer Chris Spitters with the Snohomish Health District said new cases in the county are appearing four times faster than they were six weeks ago.
Most of Snohomish County’s new cases are people under the age of 29. In addition to socializing, younger adults often work in front-line service jobs where they may be exposed to infected people.
Spitters says the county is now starting to see cases spread from young people to more vulnerable populations.
County officials say they don’t have the ability to prevent or break up private gatherings. They say it’s up to people to self-enforce and do the right thing to help stop this pandemic.
Schools starting to favor online fall classes
9:30 a.m. -- The superintendent of Seattle Public Schools says the new school year should start online and continue that way until the local Covid-19 transmission rates drop.
The school board will vote on Denise Juneau's recommendation on August 12. Meanwhile, several other school districts announced they plan on starting the new school year online.
They include: Auburn, Bellevue, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, and Northshore.
But the state says districts that don't offer in-person instruction need to have plans that address things like child care, and student access to technology.
Complaints of lax restrictions at casino
9 a.m. -- Gamblers not wearing masks. Employees working while sick.
The Tacoma News Tribune and King 5 report that the Puyallup Tribe is investigating complaints coming out of the Emerald Queen Casino.
After being closed for a month, the casino re-opened in May with a list of precautions meant to protect employees and guests from Covid-19. But the state says it has received several claims stating they're not following their own guidelines.
Covid cases drop in Yakima after widespread mask wearing
8:30 a.m. -- After having one of the highest infection rates in the state, health officials say Yakima County is now the only county where those sick with Covid-19 are infecting fewer than one other person.
And they say that the downturn is due to the fact that 95% of people in Yakima are now wearing masks.
Elsewhere though, officials are painting a dire picture -- the number of people getting Covid-19 every day in Washington is higher now than it's ever been.
They say most of the cases are showing up in young adults and fear the infections will spread to other populations.
Delayed Covid-19 test results hampering progress
8 a.m. -- Slow turnaround times for some Covid-19 test results are causing concern for the officials working to manage the pandemic.
Multiple people who recently sought Covid testing in Western Washington said they were kept waiting for results for 10 days.
Reed Schuler is a health policy advisor to Gov. Jay Inslee. He says a delayed test result is much less useful and can contribute to disease spread.
"We still believe through in-depth, continuing conversations with our laboratory partners that we have space within our in-state laboratory system," Schuler said. "So, we want to engage in load-balancing to help manage the flow of specimens that are collected so we can ensure rapid turnaround times."
Schuler says the state is monitoring those turnaround times carefully.
He says there are signs some out-of-state commercial testing labs are being swamped with specimens due to the national spike in Covid cases.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 22
Home swabs could be just as good as clinical samples
9 a.m. -- Researchers with the University of Washington say that swabs that are self-administered are just as good as the samples taken by healthcare workers.
After comparing swabs taken by healthcare workers and swabs that people used to test themselves, the UW researchers found that they were nearly equally able to detect Covid-19 infections among people with high viral loads. The findings are important as officials attempt to increase testing and make the process more efficient. Home testing could be one way to do that.
The study looked at 185 people -- 22.2% were positive. When compared to swabs taken by a clinic, home swabs detected 80% of the positive cases. When patients had "meaningful" viral loads, they detected 95%. The findings are published in the medical journal JAMA.
Washington school sports will be different this coming year
8:30 a.m. -- As school districts around the region outline their plans for the fall, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has unveiled its schedules for high school sports.
Any athletes who test positive for Covid-19 will be in a 14-day quarantine along with anyone else who had close contact.
The WIAA will break sports up into four seasons with low contact sports like slow-pitch softball happening in the fall (season 1).
Basketball, wrestling, and other normal winter sports will start up in January (that's season 2).
High school football is being moved to the spring, along with volleyball and girls soccer, between March and May (season 3).
Season 4 will run from May until June and will see the return baseball, and track and field.
Northshore schools will be online in the fall
8:15 a.m. -- The Northshore School District says students will start the school year in the fall with online classes.
The superintendent made the announcement Tuesday, saying it's just not safe to reopen schools right now.
Instead, the district is going to use a six-phase plan to get students back in the classroom once it's determined that it's safe for them to return.
Also, the Tahoma School Board in Maple Valley approved hybrid remote learning model for the fall. The board will take action on a reopening plan coming up next week.
-- Angela King
Washington now on travel advisory list, due to high Covid-19 cases
8 a.m. -- If you plan on traveling to New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut, you should plan on quarantining yourself for 14 days after you arrive.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made the announcement Tuesday. A total of 31 states are now on a travel advisory list that requires the quarantine after arrival.
The advisory includes states if their seven-day rolling average of positive tests exceeds 10%, or if the number of positive cases exceeds 10 per 100,000 residents.
Long lines, dwindling money for mobile testing effort
7:30 a.m. -- An attempt to bring Covid-19 testing to high-risk communities in King County is running out of money.
UW Medicine's van is going to South Seattle, Kent and Auburn to try to reach people who can't get into a clinic. But the times and days of that service are pretty limited.
That's resulted in lines that stretch for blocks and people waiting for hours, only to be turned away because the service has closed at the end of the afternoon.
And now money is running out next week. UW Medicine says it'll try to keep going and hope to find money in the meantime.
-- Anna Boiko-Weyrauch
Case levels rising again statewide, mainly among younger people
7:30 a.m. -- Six months into the state’s pandemic response, Washington is seeing a resurgence of cases. Dr. Kathy Lofy is the chief science officer for the state Department of Health. She said even as the case level rises, hospitals are seeing less severe disease.
"One thing that's really encouraging now compared to where we were back in March is that the number of hospitalizations remain lower, and the number of deaths remain quite a bit lower," Lofy said at news conference Tuesday.
Lofy said the state has been pretty successful at protecting those who are at risk for the most severe illness, like people who are immune compromised or are in nursing homes.
State data shows cases are increasing fastest among people in their 20s. Lofy said there's concern those cases may spread to others and lead to more hospitalizations and deaths.
As of Wednesday morning, nearly 1,500 people have died of Covid-19 in Washington.
-- Kate Walters
TUESDAY, JULY 22
New study aims to find out how many Washingtonians have been infected with Covid-19
1:05 p.m. -- How many people have been infected with Covid-19 in Washington state?
Six months since the state launched its pandemic response, the answer remains unknown. But a new study run by University of Washington Medicine aims to change that. The study will look at the blood of 7,000 Washingtonians from across the state. Researchers won’t be searching for the presence of the virus, but for antibodies, the body’s reaction to the virus.
Dr. Keith Jerome is the head of virology at UW Medicine and the principal investigator on the study. He said they’ll randomly invite people from census tracts across the state to participate in the study, with a focus on ensuring adequate representation from diverse ethnic, racial and socioeconomic groups.
Disproportionate impacts of the pandemic have been seen in communities of color.
Jerome said they want to “really try to get a sense of where’s the virus been in these first months of the pandemic so that we can really understand what populations have been most at risk, and what kind of interventions might be most useful in trying to control this.”
Abigail Echo-Hawk is the chief research officer of the Seattle Indian Health Board. She warns that clinical research studies have historically failed to engage and recruit people of color such as American Indians and Alaska Natives.
"Because these communities are the most impacted by COVID-19, it will take active community engagement and the proper allocation of resources—which hasn’t been done before—for this study is to be successful. If this is not done, we could see this study fail to represent the most impacted populations, which would contribute to growing health disparities," Echo-Hawk said in a statement.
Antibody testing has been available for a couple of months, but the sample who have been tested are self-selected and include healthcare workers and those who may have had symptoms. Jerome said a broader, more random sample is needed to get a better picture of what’s going on in the state.
UW Medicine will work with state and local health departments to do several rounds of testing. Participants will first get a diagnostic test, followed by three antibody tests over an eight month period.
The first results are expected to be available in the fall. Jerome said they hope the study will also lead to deeper understanding of what it means to have antibodies and how long they might last.
Washington has recently seen a resurgence in cases. As of Monday, there had been 47,743 confirmed cases across the state and 1,453 deaths.
The study is funded by a $3.4 million grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.
-- Kate Walters
SUNDAY, JULY 19
Global coronavirus deaths surpass 600,000, with U.S. accounting for nearly a quarter
12:55 p.m. — Total coronavirus deaths in the U.S. have surpassed 140,000, reaching somber new heights as surging cases continue to break records in parts of the country and around the world.
The U.S. passed the latest threshold late on Saturday, the same day the World Health Organization reported the largest one-day increase in global fatalities since May, with 7,360 new deaths. Global deaths had been averaging 4,600 a day in June and 4,800 in July.
According to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the virus has killed at least 603,285 people worldwide as of Sunday.
Nearly one quarter of those deaths are accounted for by the U.S.
The U.S. reports approximately 5,000 deaths each week, according to Reuters. In contrast, Canada has reported a total of 8,800 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The WHO also reported a record number of nearly 260,000 new global coronavirus cases on Saturday.
While some countries have nearly brought the virus under control, others are seeing cases spike in record numbers. Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa and Peru are next in line for the highest number of confirmed cases after the U.S.
Read more here.
FRIDAY, JULY 17
Health officials: Covid-19 on the path to "runaway growth" in WA state
6:30 p.m. -- Another 754 new coronavirus cases have been added to Washington state's total today, including 7 more deaths.
That brings us now to just over 45,000 total cases since the beginning of the outbreak in early March, and 1,454 deaths.
The state Department of Health said today in a statement the spread is accelerating in both eastern and western Washington, and notes the level of daily new cases is higher than the previous peak in March.
— Kim Malcolm
Flu season has been relatively mild compared to Covid-19 pandemic
12 p.m. — The flu season has been relatively mild compared to the Covid-19 pandemic in Washington state.
According to the state Department of Health, there have been 105 flu-related deaths in Washington over the 2019-2020 flu season. As of this update, there have been 1,434 Covid-19 deaths since the pandemic emerged in February.
The health department notes that the flu season has been mild and flue activity is generally low.
There have also been 91 flu outbreaks so far over the 2019-2020 season.
Participant in vaccine trial is optimistic
8:30 a.m. — One recipient of a test vaccine for the coronavirus says initial results show there's room for hope amid the pandemic.
Ian Haydon is a science writer with the University of Washington. He was given the vaccine earlier this year.
"This vaccine that's being trialed now, and some others while we don't know if they work, they're behaving like a vaccine that's going to work. So we have reasons to be optimistic," Hayden said.
Scientists said this week that Moderna's messenger-RNA vaccine is safe enough for clinical trials to continue. And they said that recipients developed antibodies to the coronavirus.
Haydon told KUOW's Seattle Now podcast that the next step is to expand from a few dozen healthy test subjects to several hundred people, including those who are at higher risk, to make sure the vaccine is safe for them, too.
31,000 people in Washington still haven't been paid unemployment
At least 31K people who applied for unemployment never got paid
At least 31K people who applied for unemployment never got paid
8 a.m. — Unemployed people in Washington State are days away from losing $600 a week. But many of them never got that money in the first place.
The state’s Employment Security department says at least 31,000 people have never been paid as they face the economic results of the pandemic. Some since March.
Unemployed people have been up early hitting redial, trying to find out how to get an unemployment check. Working Washington, which ran the Facebook event, suggested they tweet the governor. In comments, people said they don't want to tweet. What they want is action.
THURSDAY, JULY 16
Another daily record for Covid cases in Washington state
7:30 p.m. — It was a record day for Washington state in the course of the pandemic. The Department of Health today recorded 1,266 confirmed Covid-19 cases for July 15.
That's the largest number of cases recorded in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic.
Washington has seen only two other days with cases above one thousand. They were both in the month of July: 1,064 cases on July 5, and 1,077 on July 12.
— Kim Malcolm
Governor alters phased reopening plan
3:11 p.m. — People in Washington counties currently in Phase 3 of the state's reopening plan will no longer be able to meet in groups of 50 people, Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Thursday.
Effective Monday, July 20, social gatherings in Phase 3 counties will be restricted to 10 people or less.
“Innocent social gatherings” are spreading Covid-19, Inslee said.
“Today, what used to be a birthday party can be a death sentence,” he added.
State Secretary of Health John Wiesman said case investigations at health jurisdictions across the state are finding that social gatherings are spreading the virus, including July 4 get-togethers.
Currently, 17 counties are in Phase 3. All counties in the Puget Sound region but one are in Phase 2. Should any Phase 2 counties enter Phase 3, the new restrictions will apply.
Weddings, funerals, and religious services are exempt from the 10-person cap since social gatherings — such as beach trips and retirement parties — are believed to be the sources of increasing transmission, Inslee said.
Yakima County makes progress with masks
10 a.m. — Yakima County has been one of the hardest hit areas in Washington state and the entire country during the coronavirus pandemic.
It remains one of only five counties in a modified Phase 1 of the state’s four-phase reopening plan.
Health officials have been pushing the message that in order to open up, people need to continue masking up when going out in public.
"Personally, I’ve seen a lot more people wearing masks," said Yakima reporter Enrique Pérez de la Rosa. "And now the health district is saying that 95% of people are wearing masks. And that’s a huge amount of progress from back in May when it was just about a third of people. After that the health district issued their mandate and that went up to 60. Now it seems the governor’s order making wearing a mask mandatory to go into businesses that has really shot it up to 95. There’s preliminary evidence that it is working to bend down the curve in case rate growth."
This week Governor Inslee said the state would pause any further county reopening applications until at least July 28.
Pierce County considers moving back to Phase 1
9 a.m. -- Pierce County is considering moving backward to Phase 1 or 1.5 of the state's phased reopening plan. No county has moved backward, yet, but Doctor Anthony Chen says there needs to at least be a plan to do so.
Chen is the Health Director at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. He says opening businesses too early is only going to make things worse.
"The stock market didn't crash because of some economic development, the stock market crashed because we had a public health crisis," he said. "And if we don't control the public health crisis it doesn't matter what you do, the economy's not going to recover."
Pierce County is one of the many counties tracking an increase in confirmed Covid-19 cases over the last two weeks. Case numbers are worse now in Washington than they were in all of May and June.
Reopening schools without safety measures could spike Covid-19 cases
Reopening schools in the fall could lead to big spike in Covid-19 cases
Reopening schools in the fall could lead to big spike in Covid-19 cases
8:30 a.m. -- Going back to school in the fall will likely cause a spike in Covid-19 cases across Washington state, according to new data analysis by the Bellevue-based Institute for Disease Modeling.
It says that various measures -- including masks and physical distancing -- may be able to ensure that sending students back to the classroom doesn't increase transmission of the novel coronavirus.
It says that's only if community-wide activity of Covid-19 remains low. It found that reopening schools without comprehensive physical distancing could double the number of new Covid-19 cases between September and December.
Washington job market on an upswing
8 a.m. -- The job market is rapidly firing back up, according to new employment numbers from Washington state.
The state added 71,000 jobs in June. In that time, the unemployment rate dropped from about 15% to 9.8% -- marking the biggest month-to-month rise in employment in 30 years.
But thousands of people a week continue to lose jobs and file for unemployment benefits as the pandemic continues to affect the economy, according to the Employment Security Department.
The state paid unemployment benefits to half-a-million people in June.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 15
National lab supply shortage being felt in Washington state
4:09 p.m. -- Twenty percent of Covid tests in Washington state are being delayed up to six days because of national shortages of lab supplies, like chemicals and plastic vials and pipette tips, said Reed Schuler, a senior policy advisor in governor’s office.
Those slowdowns are coming in tests sent to major, out-of-state labs due to the rapid national surge of Covid and increased testing, he said.
In-state labs have more rapid turnaround times, Schuler said, and the state is encouraging providers to use them.
Schuler blamed a lack of a national testing program for the shortages.
Several months ago, Governor Jay Inslee wrote to the Vice President and requested the Trump Administration ensure the supply chain so labs could process a lot of tests quickly.
“They have not done so,” said Schuler.
The state is looking at ways to stretch the supplies, such as through pooling samples, Secretary of Health Dr John Wiesman said.
“But the real problem is we need the national leadership to make sure the supply chain is sufficient,” he said.
The materials that are in short supply are used in the back end of the testing process. For example, proprietary mixtures of chemicals labs used to extract the virus’ RNA from a specimen so it can be compared with the coronavirus to see if there’s a match. Other short materials include plastic vials where samples are prepared, plastic pipette tips to move around parts of samples, and plastic plates or trays to mount the samples and process them, Schuler said.
“This is a narrow, laboratory supply chain,” Schuler said.
The shortages are not going to mean tests are going to disappear overnight. But the state may eventually need to ration tests, for example starting with back-to-work tests that reveal fewer positive cases than testing vulnerable people, Schuler said.
Some labs are in a better position because they’re using a different brand of machinery, said Dr. Charissa Fotinos, who is leading the statewide testing effort. National commercial labs are using machines by the same two companies.
“For the labs that have diversified and not used the same machines and added different machines from the national commercial labs, then they have the capacity to continue to supply tests without concerns of running out of things.”
What's the risk of going into a crowd?
Noon -- An online map assesses the risk of encountering an infected person in crowds and at events.
The interactive map was produced by Georgia Tech and the Applied Bioinformatics Laboratory. Looking at county-by-county data, it assesses the risk of attending events with varying numbers of people.
For example, currently in King County, there is a 60% chance of encountering at least one person infected with the novel coronavirus at an event with 100 people. In a crowd of 25 people, there is a 20% chance.
In Central Washington counties, the risk is greater. In Yakima County, in a group of 25 people, there is a 75% risk, according to the map. It's a 90% chance of encountering an infected person in Franklin County.
See the map here.
State is changing how it counts Covid-19 deaths
11:15 a.m. -- Washington's health department is changing the way it's recording Covid-19 deaths. Up until now, if someone tested positive for the disease, but died of something else, their deaths' were classified as a Covid death.
But the state says it's now organizing them into four categories: confirmed; pending; suspected; and non-covid 19 related.
Health officials say in the vast majority of cases, Covid-19 was listed as the cause of the death. But sometimes, people with Covid-19 happen to die of something else. Or they have incomplete death certificates and the state isn’t immediately sure whether Covid-19 played a role.
Warning: Spread of Covid-19 is increasing in Washington
11 a.m. -- State Health Officer Kathy Lofy is sounding an alarm for Washington state. She says Washington is seeing a steady rise in Covid-19 cases and broad community transmission.
She also says a lot of the new cases are showing up in younger people.
"I’m just really concerned that the gatherings are getting bigger and more frequent and we really all need to do our part and to really limit our social interactions to as few as possible."
Governor Jay Inslee warns if the numbers don’t improve, he may have to start locking down the economy again. He also says the situation is threatening the goal of partially reopening schools in the fall.
The governor says that for now counties will have to stay in their current phase of reopening until at least July 28. Further actions could be announced in the coming days.
Don't flush your masks and gloves down the toilet
10:50 a.m. -- Just a reminder that there is a limited number of things you can flush down the toilet -- face masks, gloves, and sanitizing wipes are not among them.
In fact, here's the list of products you can flush: toilet paper.
King County officials are noting that its wastewater facilities are having more problems caused by people throwing trash down the toilet. This includes masks, gloves, and sanitizing wipes. Even if the product is labeled "flushable," officials say that is not quite true in practice.
According to King County Wastewater Services, they were familiar with the problem even before the pandemic recently prompted a range of new items arriving at its facilities:
"Last year, King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division spent over $120,000 just to take the wipes, tampons, and other trash that came into our treatment plants to a landfill. That’s enough trash to fill two semi-trucks every week! Plus, there’s the increased cost for system operation and maintenance."
Seattle restaurant reopens after outbreak
10 a.m. -- Duke's Seafood Chowder House on Seattle's Alki Beach is back open after a Covid-19 outbreak among several workers shut it down last week.
Health officials said the restaurant didn't fully comply with the state's Safe Start plan. But now the owners say they've changed employee work spaces so they have more room.
They've also reduced seating to 50% capacity. There were no reports of any customers getting sick.
TUESDAY, JULY 14
Covid-19 vaccine trial shows positive early results in Seattle
2:45 p.m. -- A Covid-19 vaccine tested in Seattle took another step forward Tuesday. Moderna’s messenger-RNA vaccine is safe enough for clinical trials to continue. There are also signs it may work.
The preliminary safety trial (Phase 1) results were published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Volunteers injected with two doses of the vaccine at Kaiser Permanente Research Institute in Seattle developed antibodies comparable to someone who has had the disease. But it’s not yet clear how well this vaccine will work. There are still two more phases of clinical trials to go.
This is the first coronavirus vaccine to be tested on humans. And it could be the first vaccine publicly available if all goes well.
Gov. Inslee asks feds for help funding National Guard
Gov. Inslee asks feds for further help paying for National Guard Covid-19 response
Gov. Inslee asks feds for further help paying for National Guard Covid-19 response
9 a.m. -- Governor Jay Inslee is asking the Trump Administration to extend its funding for the National Guard through December 31, as it responds to the pandemic.
More than 1,000 guard members have been helping distribute food bank meals. They've also been helping with contact tracing. And the Guard has been working with the state unemployment office to verify legitimate claimants after the department was scammed out of millions
Sea-Tac Airport begins temperature checks
8:30 a.m. --Starting Tuesday, SeaTac Airport will conduct voluntary temperature checks on passengers in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
They temperature-checking kiosk is set up checkpoint 5, the northern-most checkpoint which serves passengers of Alaska Airlines.
The airport is also handing out free masks to those who need one.
Seattle teachers union objects to district's fall plans
8 a.m. -- The Seattle school district is moving forward with plans to reopen this fall. But the local teacher’s union says the district is moving too fast.
The union sent a sharply-worded letter to Superintendent Denise Juneau over the weekend. It says the district’s reopening plans were being made before being worked out at the bargaining table.
Jennifer Matter is president of the Seattle Education Association. She says the union has serious health and safety concerns with plans to hold school in-person at least part-time this fall.
“So, for the district to be moving ahead and telling parents that more or less there's a done deal, I think, is not showing that they're truly partnering and collaborating with us.”
The union sent the letter after the district announced a decision to hold pre-K and kindergarten four or five days a week this fall.
District spokesperson Tim Robinson said they’re working with public health officials to determine how to safely restart school. And that union talks are ongoing.
The school board is scheduled to vote August 12 on a final fall plan.
MONDAY, JULY 13
Pizza, burger chains grab slices of aid meant for small businesses
7 p.m. -- Thanks to a loophole in the law creating the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, major restaurant and hotel chains are allowed to receive the pandemic-relief loans.
Five chains based in Washington received loans of at least $5 million from the Small Business Administration:
• Bellevue-based MOD Pizza, with nearly $500 million in annual sales from 475 locations nationwide
• Vancouver-based Burgerville, with 1,480 employees in 42 locations
• Woodinville-based Northwest Restaurants, owner of 160 KFC, Taco Bell and A&W franchises in 5 states
• Mukilteo-based Emerald City Pizza, owner of 61 Pizza Hut franchises in western Washington
• Kirkland-based Anthony’s, with 22 seafood restaurants in 3 states
The vast majority of loans in Washington were much smaller, for $150,000 or less.
Many small businesses were turned down for loans after the program ran out of money.
Small Business Administration PPP loans of $150,000 or more to Washington businesses. (May take several seconds to load. View in separate window here.)
UW data indicates low levels of Covid-19 among frontline medical staff
10 a.m. -- Testing done by UW Medicine's Virology Lab shows a 3% positive rate among medical staff. The Virology Lab tested staff for novel coronavirus antibodies, indicating they have already been infected.
The 3% positive rate for antibodies among UW Medicine staff is below the rate for the general public.
“The low overall rate of past infections in workers directly interacting with and caring for COVID-19 patients is a testament to our preparedness efforts and continued commitment to keeping employees safe,” said UW Medicine’s Dr. John B. Lynch, medical director, Infection Prevention at Harborview Medical Center. “Our preventative measures included early access to testing, extensive personal protective equipment and using highly trained units specifically dedicated to COVID-19.”
According to a statement from UW Medicine: These early results indicate that there is not a significantly higher risk among the UW Medicine’s frontline healthcare population than in the population at large. Antibody testing involves performing clinical blood tests to check for the presence of antibodies that indicate past infections of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Paid parking resumes in Seattle
8 a.m. -- Paid parking on Seattle streets resumes Monday, but at a reduced rate in many places.
It'll cost you 50 cents an hour to park and the city will keep that price in place for at least a month while managers review people's parking activity
Other cities like Tacoma and Redmond have already reinstated paid parking. Also, hourly time-limited parking will be re-enforced starting Monday.
For the first two weeks, they will be focused on education and voluntary compliance of paid parking as customers return to our neighborhood businesses.
Parking enforcement was halted as the pandemic initially struck the Seattle area.
FRIDAY, JULY 10
UW cancels home opener football game
8:30 a.m. -- The UW football team's home opener against Michigan on September 5 has been canceled. The Big Ten conference announced Thursday that its teams won't be playing any non-conference games --maybe no games at all this fall because of the pandemic.
The University of Washington says this is the only change to the 2020 football season as of now. The Pac-12 Conference will likely move to conference-only season, according to ESPN.